It is no secret Georgia has been playing catch-up in the SEC facilities arms race.
After all, UGA became the final program in the SEC to build an indoor practice facility, which was something former head coach Mark Richt asked about for numerous years before it materialized. And the original compromise, a small indoor area that was part of an expansion to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in 2010 that has since been torn down, didn’t do much for the Bulldogs in the event of inclement weather.
Including the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall expansion, Georgia has spent $95 million over the past seven years on facilities, which doesn’t include the Sanford Stadium West end zone project, according to athletics director Greg McGarity. But at the present time, it is unknown what projects will follow the indoor practice facility and West end zone project – both of which total at $93 million.
Therefore, UGA President Jere Morehead was asked if he is satisfied with the approach to facilities or if a new master plan should be considered
“Essentially that’s what we’re doing now,” Morehead said. “We’re taking every part of our athletic facility and seeing how we can move it forward. We’re having to do it in the context of making sure we’re in sound financial planning. As we raise the funds for the West end zone, that will give us an opportunity to tackle the next part of the master plan.
The last time the UGA Athletic Association published a master plan was in 2008. It was organized by former UGA President Michael Adams and former athletics director Damon Evans.
At the time, Evans dubbed it a “wish list,” which featured upgrades to existing facilities and the construction of an indoor practice facility.
McGarity didn’t say whether that was the particular master plan Georgia is working off of. But he said his administration is adhering to one when it comes to its facility projects.
“We’ve got projects in the queue and we just pick those off as funds become available and as priorities exist,” McGarity said. “We’ve had one in place for a time. It’s just not a publicized master plan. We attack each facility as necessary.”
Given that Georgia was the last program to construct an indoor practice facility, which went into use this past winter after the $30 million project was completed, a narrative exists that Georgia hasn’t done enough to keep up with other programs that have spent money at a high rate.
During Thursday’s spring meeting of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors, vice president of finance and administration Ryan Nesbit went through a presentation as to why Georgia can’t blow through the reserves it is sitting on. A lot of it has to do with maintaining a high credit rating and protecting its bond-related covenants. To achieve these, which Nesbit said allows Georgia flexibility for borrowing money in the future, the program must have a large sum of money that sits untouched.
In his athletics director report to the board, McGarity said comparisons will inevitably exist in the collegiate facilities arms race. Alabama set the tone years ago. Clemson, the defending the national champions, has ramped up its spending tremendously over the last few years.
“The game of comparing one school to another will always be a popular exercise for many,” McGarity said. “We will always do what we think is best on a sport by sport basis for our teams, in order to achieve all of our directives on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”